Five ways to ensure your year-end spending sets you up for success in 2018.
It’s that time of year again.
While we’re busy on a personal level with holiday parties, family gatherings, and finding the perfect gifts, we’re equally busy in the office, finalizing our annual plans and reconciling our budgets—only to find that there are leftover dollars that we held off on using, or earmarked for some project or other and never quite got around to spending. And with only days to use them or see them disappear, you may be wondering how to get the best bang for your year-end bucks.
First off, you’re not alone. One Harvard University study found that 8.7% of the year’s spending occurs in the last week of the fiscal year, which is five times the average weekly spend. There’s some question over whether the “use it or lose it” budget approach results in long-term gains for the company, and while most research has been focused on more-easily quantifiable government spending, the fact is that you control whether those budget dollars will be spent on a useful investment in the future or just lost—whether going unused or spent on low-impact items like office supplies.
Having been in the same situation at several companies over the years, here are the five strategies I’ve used to maximize the value of those leftover budget dollars, and which can help you ensure yours are contributing to a successful 2018:
1. Build a Wishlist—NOW!
There are still three weeks till years’ end, and if you haven’t started identifying the projects that could make a difference in 2018, now is the time to start. At some companies where I’ve worked, I didn’t get final monthly reports from finance until between the 15th and 20th of the month, leaving almost no time to react and use up the remaining dollars. So right around Thanksgiving (the one in the U.S., that is) my team and I would start compiling items that we had wished we could find dollars for in the current year and then prioritize them as a team. We’d then reach out to vendors and partners in early December to get bids for the best opportunities, and have their sales reps poised to send contracts as soon as we knew what we had left. It gave us a leg up on other departments, ensuring we were at the front of the line for legal reviews and approvals while everyone else was just starting the process of doing the same thing.
2. Strengthen your Team
If your leftover budget is earmarked for training purposes, now is a great time to ask your team to send over requests for seminars, conferences, and other industry events that they could register for in December, making the 2018 training budget go further. While some companies will allocate the training costs based on the date of the event, not all do so, and pre-paying those registrations means the hit to your budget next year will be limited to the meals and travel costs associated with attending.
3. Identify your Weaknesses
If there are one or two areas where you’re particularly struggling, prepaying for a solution using those budget dollars can help ensure that you’re able to shore up the gap without having to justify the cost in 2018. As an example, in one previous role, we struggled with reporting on social media results, because our current systems didn’t support the tracking. One tool we’d long wanted wasn’t terribly expensive, but we couldn’t justify its worth until we started using it. We solved that chicken-and-egg challenge by pre-paying for six months of usage in December, and by June the value of the reporting and the actionable intelligence it gave us made it easy to sell the value of keeping the contract from that point forward.
4. Consult your Peers
Remember that other departments may be facing some of the same issues you are, and may have some leftover dollars floating around, as well. If you’ve managed your budget so well that you don’t have enough for that tool you want to license or that service that you’ve wanted to try, perhaps partnering with another department with the same challenges is a solution. For example, with SPLICE’s dialogs for late payment reminders and appointment reminders, we deliver those services to the same customers within the same company, but—in most cases—different departments are leveraging them. Those companies benefit from bundled pricing on customer touches, but each department budgets for their own program, creating a win-win for everyone. So, if your tool or solution of choice could benefit another department as well, reach out and ask!
5. Think Outside the Box
If you’re lucky enough to have everything you need to succeed covered and within budget, but still have some left over, well (aside from being one of the luckiest people on Earth) now may be the time to explore some areas that are going well, but that could still benefit from trying new things or exploring innovative options. As the saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. So, if you’re fortunate enough to have it all with money to spare—and even if you’re not—thinking about ways to automate processes further or to take your customer experience to another level may be worth exploring with your year-end windfall.
Hopefully, these ideas will be useful to you and help you find new ways to maximize your leftover budget. Have other ideas for ways to use up those year-end dollars? Comment below or feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Oh… and if customer experience is on your wish list for 2018, right now you can prepay to get a SPLICE pilot program for personalized calls and SMS messages set up and ready to run in Q1 for under $5,000*. Test it for three months, and if you’re unsatisfied with the results, simply walk away from your contract, no questions asked. Reach out and I’ll be happy to tell you more!
*Estimated dialog set-up fees for a new customer/program set to run in January 2018; does not include bundled pricing for actual customer touches by phone/SMS, which are billed monthly based on estimated volumes.